Too Much Of a Good Thing

pie_chart“Do you know how to destroy the usefulness of a technique, Watson?” This time it was The Effective Detective who began our weekly discussion.

“By misusing it, sir?” I replied.

“Close, Watson. You are still, on occasion, quite vague. There are many ways to ‘misuse’ a technique. I am looking for one way in particular,” The Detective’s response came back with a barely disguised tone of irritation.

“Over use perhaps?” I ventured.

“Perfect Watson! Even if it was a guess,” The Detective shot me a sideways glance. “It is possible to fall into the trap of thinking that if a little of something gives me great results, than a lot of it will give me fantastic results,” The Detective paused briefly.

“Was there a particular technique you were thinking of sir?” I encouraged.

“Yes, Watson, thank you for asking. There is one technique that is often used to a point where the data it provides becomes meaningless. That one technique is segmentation,” The Detective paused uncharacteristically here; usually expounding a bit more on the subject before giving me an opening.  However, even with the limited amount of exposition from him, I had formed a question or perhaps a challenge.

“But sir, isn’t it important, in fact, critical, to have as much information as possible?” I asked.

“An excellent point Watson. That said, there are two dangers in overuse of segmentation.

“The first should be rather obvious. It is possible to segment your audience to such a point that the segments shrink down to a size that renders them unusable. Unless you have a high ticket item that you are marketing to a group that you intend to try to reach at a premium price, who you have a high confidence level of engaging with,  segmenting down to less than fifteen or twenty individuals is most likely not going to produce results equal to or greater than the labor and cost  involved in producing those results.

“The second, and perhaps less obvious, but still deadly, danger is segmenting into sections that will have no effect on your message. If the appropriate age for use if your product or service is anyone older than sixteen years old, dividing your audience into a standard set of age segments like 18-24, 25-34, 35-54, 55-64, 65+ will largely be a waste of time in terms of getting that information, and a colossal waste of time and energy in crafting multiple messages for the different groups,” The Detective took his more characteristic pause here, and my mind raced to come up with an observation or question.

“So one only needs to segment down to the level where the message will resonate most strongly!” I exclaimed in a sudden moment of clarity.

“Precisely, Watson! Well done.  A more specific age example would be  if your product or service is aimed at adults aged 35-64, then you shouldn’t care if they are 35-54 or, 55-64, that breakdown isn’t needed. A tad simplistic I admit, and age is certainly not the only demographic you could over-think,  but you see the point.”

“Indeed I do, sir. So the trick then is finding that balance between too little segmentation, and too much.” I responded.

“Quite, so. That however, is a discussion for another day.”


  1. Excellent post, Detective! As you know, we segment our lists…but…I’ve run into this exact same situation before. We can get over zealous and segment TOO MUCH!

    Sure…segmenting every-which-way may sound great at first. But when you start to waste time…you realize which segments matter and which don’t.

    This goes back to the phrase we use at Mastermind – all the time: Just b/c you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD!

    Thanks, Matt!

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